Your Excellency – [High Commissioner Sangeeta Bahadur, Ambassador)
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion,
It is indeed a great pleasure to be here with you today to celebrate such a special occasion for Indians around the world. Allow me to thank High Commissioner Bahadur, for hosting us here today, and for bringing us all together to celebrate the National Day of the Republic of India.
I am glad that we could all meet today, not only for the historical aspect of commemoration, but also because occasions such as this one, and other festivities celebrating Indian traditions such as the Diwali festival, are important to facilitate dialogue between distant countries. Furthermore, they are also an opportunity to enhance encounters at commercial and trade level. Most importantly, they are an occasion to rekindle our people-to-people encounters, and further strengthen our diplomatic and friendly relations.
With over 55 years of fruitful and cordial diplomatic relations, we can proudly state that irrespective of our cultural, historical, geographical and demographical differences, amongst other, we continue to seek new areas for cooperation and dialogue, not only at the bilateral level, but also on the international stage.
Malta is pleased to have been home to an ever-increasing Indian community, residing and working in Malta for over a century. In fact, the first migrants settled here around the end of the 19th century. This community was composed mainly of traders originating from the Sindh province. The 1960s ushered a milestone as the number of Indian families grew and the first Maltese Indian retailer’s association was established. Today the Indian Community in Malta is estimated to be around 5,000 and is present in a more diversified business portfolio, including pharmaceuticals, IT and construction.
Your participation to the local economy and its growth, but also the mosaic of traditions and customs you share with us, continue to enrich my country’s cultural and demographical portfolio.
Furthermore, as mentioned by Your Excellency, I am pleased to learn of ongoing Indian successes, continuing to be the fastest growing economy of the world, whilst also fulfilling an important humanitarian role in distributing vaccines to those that need them the most. This is testimony to India’s vision of a more just world, and active participation to promote the well-being of humanity.
As we embark on a new year, sadly, we continue to face a number of long-term challenges, and emerging threats. Prevailing pockets of global inequality and violent turmoil, environmental degradation including new vulnerabilities caused by climate change, and the proliferation of small arms, continue to fuel instability in various areas of the world and negatively impact our development, survival and security.
The ongoing struggle to contain and control the spread of the Covid pandemic is yet another challenge faced by us all. Nonetheless, responses by the international community to address this collective health emergency brought to light great discrepancies in accessing lifesaving medicines and ensuring equal and timely distribution of vaccines across the globe. The scramble and hoarding of essential medical tools and drugs to prevent, control and combat this virus, exposed humanity to a new layer of exclusionary politics and discrimination.
Various world leaders have denounced a similar approach and have called for a more just and united front to address matters of common concern such as the spread of a highly contagious virus.
I join this message of solidarity and extend my vision towards a post-Covid recovery period. Lessons learned in the past months should not be forgotten at the sound of revived economic activity. The importance of ensuring access to health services, potable and safe water, a nutritional diet, and secure dwellings, whilst facilitating equal access to education, and health facilities and services, should be our top priorities for the upcoming weeks and months.
This is where Governments need to strike most. This is where diplomacy and increased cooperation within Sustainable development parameters need to take the lead.
As members of the Commonwealth, both Malta and India are part of an important platform. Our work within the Commonwealth could act as beacon of light in promoting unity through diversity, and implement a more just and inclusive international approach. Our shared colonial history, but also keen interest in pushing forward equitable trade and sustainable development practices, highlight our commitment to adhere to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and ‘leave no one behind’.
That is why I strongly believe in the role of dialogue and friendly diplomatic relations as key for success and long-term vision of unity.
We might speak different languages, belong to different religious beliefs, and also enjoy different customs, yet we share one very important element, humanity. If we seriously ponder on this source of unity, that is our common humanity and our higher purpose to preserve and protect our shared globe we call home, we can truly move towards a more just, clean and sustainable future.
Excellency, distinguished guests, on this note, I invite you to raise your glasses for a toast, to the health of the President of India, His Excellency, Mr Ram Nath Kovind, and to the excellent relations between the people of Malta and India.